Tuesday, 21 February 2017

Swan Hill clinic works on solution to rural doctor shortage

Eight Monash University medical students have just begun an 18-week placement with the Swan Hill Primary Health Medical Centre as part of an ongoing program to alleviate the shortage of doctors in rural Australia. This year’s cohort of eight students is the most Swan Hill has hosted in its many years of educating students in a rural setting.

Local GP Dr Ernan Hession and Monash Hub Director, who has been involved in teaching Monash students in Swan Hill since 2010, said the whole community has a role to play in encouraging students to consider a career in rural practice.

Bridge over the Murray River at Swan Hill
Eight medical students will spend 18 weeks in Swan Hill learning from GPs and staff at the Swan hill Primary Health Medical Centre. Photo: Marcus Wong (wikimedia)

“The Swan Hill Primary Health Medical Centre was established with a culture of teaching, but students learn a lot from patients too. Many of our students are from country areas and it’s great that we can train them in the same environments they are used to – and hopefully also will return to.

“Being willing to see a student when you visit the clinic provides them invaluable opportunities to learn,” he said. “A welcoming community makes a huge difference to the experience students have on a clinical placement and our town has been very supportive of the programme over the last six years.

“The program is expanding in our area and this is a result of all of us – educators, community placements hosts, hospital and most of all our patients – have supported it.”

Director of Monash Rural Health Bendigo, Associate Professor Chris Holmes, agreed that the time students spend in centres like Swan Hill is a vital part of their clinical education and pivotal in career choices.

“We know that a positive rural experience during their training can have a big influence on students’ decision to pursue a career in rural practice.

Jessica Paynter grew up new Swan Hill and came back to learn from the GP who delivered her 21 years ago.
Read her story...
“Swan Hill has become a priority choice for students because of the wide variety of clinical opportunities available – and the high quality teaching support provided by educators like Dr Hession, Dr Julia Coshan and all the other wonderful teachers who give freely of their time.” said Associate Professor Holmes.

The eight students are in their second year of clinical training and will spend a significant portion of their time working in the medical clinic under the supervision of a GP. Here they have an opportunity for a wide range of clinical experiences both in the clinic and the hospital, especially in obstetrics, procedural general practice, Aboriginal health and emergency medicine.  They also attend formal tutorials and teaching sessions run locally and via videoconference facilities at the clinic.

The students come from regional Victoria and New South Wales, and include two from Melbourne.

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